Highland Park, Michigan, used to be a grand suburb of Detroit. Henry Ford created Highland Park to avoid Detroit taxes, which he thought were too high, when he chose the location for his first assembly line. Now Highland Park is wholy surrounded by Detroit and in even worse financial shape than the Motor City.
Escaping from state emergency financial management just a year ago, Highland Park’s mayor is determined to not let it happen again. With a $600,000 deficit looming, Mayor Hubert Yopp announced plans to cut 5 auxilliary and 3 sworn police officers. Here’s the rub. In 2007-08, the city spent $610,746 on recreation and cultural services. Don’t get me wrong; I think recreation is important. In the same period, they spent $905,596 on community and economic development. When looking at essential services, seems to me police is a higher priority. Considering Highland Park’s crime rate is four times the national average, cutting police should probably be the last option.
I don’t think Highland Park is much different from any other political entity. The news is rife with politicians threatening to cut public safety in an effort to blackmail voters into accepting higher taxes. It’s not rocket science. Which are you more likley to vote for? A millage increase for the community pool or a one to keep firefighters on duty? The real problem is government officials not making the right—but tough—choices in belt-tightening. And this is exacerbated by elected officials who probably don’t understand what really needs to be done for fiscal responsibility coupled with taking the easy way out.
Here’s a novel concept. When a governmental entity needs to make cuts, make the line-by-line revenues and expenditures available to the public. I realize most won’t look at it or understand it, but the information would be readily available. Then, rather than asking for a millage increase for a specific item or service, let voters what they want to fund or cut.